A bit on bleed

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In this post, I discuss a little bit about the technicalities of self publishing (or really publishing in general): bleed and trim.

Bleed is defined (by Wikipedia) as “a printing term that refers to printing that goes beyond the edge of the sheet after trimming. The bleed is the part on the side of your document that gives the printer that small amount of space to move around paper and design inconsistencies.”

Trim (or trimming) is defined as “the stage of the book production process in which the page edges of a book are trimmed so that all pages will stack with perfect edge alignment within the finished book jacket.”

What does all this mean?!  Well, I’m getting to that! In the process of publishing, the pages and cover of any prospective book are printed at a much larger size than what it is going to be released as.  For instance, a 6″ x 9″ (US Trade size) book may start off as an 8.5″ x 11″ (regular piece of paper) sized page.  When the printing process is finished, it is “trimmed” down to the appropriate size.  So, your trim size is 6″ x 9″.

But, when a book is finished and cut, the cut is not always exactly the same on every single book (due to mass manufacturing).  One book my have a little extra on a given side, a little less on one side, or what have you.  Therefore, the “bleed” comes into play.

Bleed, as defined above, is basically the area of your cover and interior pages that may or may not be exactly the same on any given book.  This means that anything important, such as the author’s name, book’s title, or really any writing, important images (or focus on any particular image), or anything that you don’t want to be cut off should not end up in the bleed area.  The area of the cover where you can put anything you like that is guaranteed is often called the “title area” or “safe area”.  Now, this doesn’t mean that your book won’t be 6″ x 9″, using the present example, but it does mean that the 6″ x 9″ cut will be around your safe area, and they do not guarantee the bleed remaining due to trimming.

It depends on your print-on-demand service what your bleed allocation needs to be, but it’s usually save to say 1/4th inch on all sides.  So, don’t put anything important within about 1/4th of an inch from the outside trim line.  Print-on-demand services are usually very clear about this on their websites, but I would also recommend not placing anything within 1/4th of an inch of the spine, either, to keep it from bleeding onto the spine.

That’s it for now!  Thanks for reading, and leave a comment!

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